Speech team hosts prestigious tournament

National qualifying event starts today at the high school

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— One of the NFL's biggest events comes to Steamboat Springs this weekend -- and it's not the Super Bowl.

For the first time in its history, the Steamboat Springs High School speech team will host a National Forensics League Student Congress qualifying tournament.

Beginning at 3 p.m. today, 99 students from 13 Colorado high schools will form a mock Congress and attempt to speak their way to Georgia for the national finals in June. Five of the 99 students will earn the right to compete in the finals.

"It's an incredible honor to host a national qualifier," coach Shauna Lamansky said. "This is a different level of competition."

The 99 students will be separated into two "Senates" and three "Houses of Representatives." Each school must have two senators.

All competitors will debate 20 pieces of legislation that were written by the competitors and preselected by a panel of speech coaches.

During two preliminary rounds, each House and Senate will elect a presiding officer, who will serve as the majority leader for the chamber.

"There's a lot of campaigning and politicking that goes on at the beginning," Lamansky said.

Teams want the legislation they authored at the top of the discussion docket, and because the presiding officers can influence the order in which legislation is discussed, having a teammate elected as presiding officer can be a big boost, she said. Competitors are judged by their ability to speak and effectively argue legislation, as well as how active they are in parliamentary procedures.

Each four-hour preliminary round will produce four finalists from each chamber. Presiding officers are automatically nominated for the finals, which take place Saturday afternoon. Scorekeepers nominate other finalists, who are voted on by their peers.

The final round features one 16-member Senate and one 24-member House.

"Once they get to the final round, it's all about speaking and who's the best speaker," Lamansky said. "They truly are the best speakers in the northern half of Colorado. A lot of them go on to careers in law and politics."

Two senators and three representatives will be selected to go to the national finals, where students can win scholarship money.

Seven of Steamboat's 14 speech team members will participate in the qualifying tournament. They are Julia Patterson, Beth Ludwig, Lauren Tait, Joey Andrew, Justin Krause, Amanda Toy and Kelsey Patterson.

The public is welcome to attend the competition at the high school. Preliminary rounds begin at 3 p.m. today and continue at 8 a.m. Saturday. The final round begins at 1 p.m. Saturday. More information is available at the tournament headquarters in Room 101.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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